What needs to happen for your team to get off to better starts?
I’ve been on teams that score early and fast. I’ve been on teams that don’t, and as a staff we sit down and we talk about those situations and everybody tries to figure out what it is. Last year, it was 12 o’clock games, we didn’t do well in 12 o’clock games. The year before we played great in 12 o’clock games – it’s not like we change our routine and do all these different things from year to year, because we don’t. It’s just the make-up of your team. It’s trying to get that chemistry right. We talked about it as a team. We’ve gotta start fast, we’ve gotta get out there and get going right off the bat…
Believe me, I want to go out there on the first series of the game and go down and score a touchdown. I don’t like kicking field goals, I want to go score a touchdown and we didn’t in most of those instances. To be honest with you, most of those plays are scripted out. Those plays are practiced more than any other plays – the first 12 plays of our game. We should be better at those than any other thing that’s going on, but we weren’t. Maybe that’s overcoaching. Maybe we shouldn’t do anything all week, and just go out there and see what happens.
When you’re evaluating kickers is it as simple as how many they make in practice?
Have you ever heard of a good practice player that wasn’t a good game player? … Yeah, that’s come up too. You get a guy that’s hitting them in practice, and tearing it up in practice, he gets out in the game and he doesn’t do it. Why? Why is Tiger (Woods) having trouble with his swing right now? Kicking is a lot like golf in my opinion, it’s a head game. To me, it’s strictly a confidence deal. At Southern Miss one year, I think we missed six extra points. It was bad. In fact, our fans would boo our kicker. The next year he was one of the three finalists for the Lou Groza Award. Same guy. I don’t know what the answer is. But you’ve got to find a guy that’s going to make them.
At this event last year, you said ‘It’s time’ for the program to take the next step. Do you feel like you were a year early?
I’ll tell you at the end of this season. I think we’re closer than we’ve ever been and rightfully so, we’re going into our fourth season. It just takes some time. I think we’re closer than we’ve ever been. That’s why I’m so excited about going into this season and where we are. You cross your fingers that you’ve done everything that you need to do to make sure the leaders are going to lead and that the chemistry is right on the football team, because you do have pieces of the puzzle in place on the field.
How do you make sense of where the team was during the last six games in 2014?
The only way to make any sense of it is we were inconsistent. Let’s make something clear real quick right now and all these questions about last year’s team – that’s still my responsibility. All those issues and everything we talked about – that’s me. When it all comes down, it’s a poor job by Larry Fedora. No matter what the reasons were, it’s my job to get it right and to make sure we come out and we’re successful. That didn’t happen last year, so I’ve got to do a better job.
What did you learn from seeing the team ebb and flow like it did?
I learned that we’ve got to do a great job with the chemistry and the leadership of this football team. Because I feel like those were two things that were major in the lack of success that we expected last year.
You’re pretty confident those things have been addressed?
As confident as you can be. But again, time will tell. We’ll know at the end of the season this year.
What are the pros and cons of starting the season with a game against South Carolina?
I think everybody wants to start out with a win, that’s No. 1. The pros are it could be a great thing for this conference. Everybody is talking about it. I imagine if we were opening up with the little sisters of the poor, probably nobody would be talking about it. It’s the first game. It’s a big game. It’s a neutral site. It’s South Carolina-Carolina, all those things, that’s going to be really good. It’s good for recruits. It’s good for our team as they prepare through the summer, which is a grind for them, to know that they’ve got that big game coming up, that part of it is exciting.
The negatives are, if you’re not successful, how you manage your team and not starting out with a win. But that’s part of coaching.
Was there a hangover from the game in Columbia (in 2013)?
I don’t know.
You guys went into that game with some pretty high expectations…
We did. And I think we had a good plan, we just faltered in that plan, turned the ball over a few times and didn’t get it done.
As good of a runner as Marquise is, is that part of what made you average last season? The fact that he was running so much?
No, I don’t think so. He gave the offense what it had, really, with his legs. You guys know, he can throw the football. He can throw the football very well and has in multiple occasions. I think what he was able to do last year was breathe air into the offense. Without the way he played, it could’ve been really bad.
Do you expect improvement on the offensive line?
Oh, definitely, because they’re all back. They’ve all got confidence. They all know what we’re doing. You had guys stepping out on the field last year for the first time. There’s a lot of confidence in their eyes in what they’re going to be able to accomplish.
Who are some of the younger players you have high hopes for this season?
The safety, J.K. Britt, out of Georgia had a really, really good spring. There were nine guys that were out there. Ty’Son Williams, the running back out of South Carolina, had a really good spring and opened a lot of eyes out there. Those two guys alone – Jalen Dalton really did some really nice things in spring. He got a lot of reps during spring ball. There are three guys out of those nine, right there, just off the top of my head that opened eyes during spring ball.
Is Khris Francis ready to give you something this year?
I believe so. He’s back healthy. They’re going to release him here pretty soon.
Elijah Hood had a rough first year with injury and other things. What can you tell us about where he is right now and his decision to stay off Twitter until the season is over?
I didn’t know that he was doing that. I didn’t know he posts a lot on Twitter. Does he post a lot?
I don’t know how often he posts, but he specifically said he’s not going to post again until after the season.
That is interesting. Maybe he does post a lot, and maybe he feels like that takes away from him being a great football player. One thing about Elijah, he’s very committed to being the best that he can possibly be. There were a lot of expectations for Elijah coming into his freshman year, which probably aren’t fair for any freshman – and he did really well. Then he got injured in the Notre Dame game and we lost him for the majority of the season after that. I’m sure it was disappointing for him. A lot of that was out of his control. I think he probably feels like he’s got something to prove and if that’s what drives him, great. If getting off Twitter is going to make him a better football player, then great I’m all for it. If that was a key for us, then I’ll tell them all to get off. I’ll get off.
Why was there a lack of production from the running backs last year?
You’re not going to be successful if you’re not good on the offensive line; it’s just not going to happen at any level. Not that we didn’t have good players up there, but they were inexperienced and they didn’t come along as we would’ve liked them to come along.
Landon Turner went down for three or four games last year and we’re starting a true freshman at guard. A guy that was just coming out of high school, and at this level that’s hard to do. I think the running backs will have more production because the offensive line will be better.
(Check back tomorrow for Part IV ...)
Q&A with Larry Fedora, Part III
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